United Nations initiative issues sustainability guide

The United Nations Global Compact and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) have released a practical guide for companies to use when measuring their environmental impact

Integrating the SDGs into Corporate Reporting: A Practical Guide, developed with support from PwC and Shift, makes plain the steps needed to set business objectives and both measure and report their progress towards long-term sustainability. The guide is designed to help businesses achieve the 2030 Agenda to 'to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations'.

The guide is predicated on the increasing awareness of environmental degradation and its impact on both individuals and business: 'Business cannot thrive in a world of poverty, inequality, unrest and environmental stress, and so it has a vital interest in ensuring that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or Global Goals) are delivered'.

It outlines a three-step process for incorporating SDGs into existing business plans, beginning with understanding and defining priority SDG targets, before moving on to measuring and analysing existing data and using it to set business objectives, and then implementing the changes.

The guide goes not promote the practice of businesses choosing the easiest SDGs for them to report on; rather, it emphasises focusing on the highest priorities based on the material impact of the business.

In assessing risks to the environment and individuals, it gives the example of nuclear power, which has 'a low likelihood of major accidents' but in those cases the impact is considerable, widespread, and long-lasting. In such circumstances, preventing such an impact becomes a priority under the philosophy of the guide. Companies as diverse as food-producing multinational Danone and logistics group Maersk have publicly pledged their support of the process.

SDGs replaced Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015 and have become increasingly prominent as consumer pressure and environmental awareness have increased. High-profile media campaigns have led to the introduction of taxes on plastic bags and prompted efforts to reduce non-biodegradable marine waste. In total, there are 17 SDGs covering issues as diverse as poverty, gender inequality, and sustainable economic growth, prompting criticism that the goals are too many to effectively achieve. Despite this, the goals have been most enthusiastically taken up by the trustees of pension funds.

Integrating the SDGs into Corporate Reporting: A Practical Guide is here 

Report by James Bunney

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